Saturday, 31 December 2011

New generation

New Year's Eve an appropriate time to post a couple of photos another generation of nature watchers.

 Our family has been with us for some time over the holidays and our grandson has been busy with his Bug Catcher and Critter Keeper Christmas presents,  getting a close up look at some of the insects. These two beetles (I think Soldier beetle family) were just gaining their freedom after some watching time.
Some of the larger wildlife also had close attention although not too close for comfort, as the small  Lace Monitor sunning on the deck was a subject for study.

I have had a most enjoyable year doing the blog and hope next year brings more new species and great photo opportunities for all who are fascinated by the wonderful world of nature that is all around us.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas colour

 Our wetter than normal winter this year provided the ideal conditions for our Red-flowering Gum Corymbia ficifolia, one of the around 110 species in the Corymbia genus that had previously been included in the eucalyptus genus. A native of the southwestern corner of Western Australia, it is arguably the most striking of the flowering gums.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Blue eyes looking black

An insect that is reasonably common in our area and generally seen at night, when it is attracted to the house lights, is the Common Lacewing or Blue Eyed Lacewing Nymphes myrmeloonides. This one had come in the house and had managed to get spiderweb around the wing tips and was not able to fly, so it was rescued, placed outside and the web removed for the photo.

They are one of the largest of the Lacewings, about 40mm in length and they are the adult of one of the Ant-lion larva species that build insect traps for their prey. Their eyes at certain angles and in torch light show bright blue, hence the name.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Pretty in pink

The wet year has been good for the flowering of Pink Spiral Orchids or Austral Ladies Tresses Spiranthes australis, a slender terrestrial orchid with small flowers (4/5mm) tightly packed in a spiral around the scape. This is the only Australian species of Spiranthes and is regarded as a form of Chinese Spiral Orchid Spiranthes sinensis. It has a wide range in Australia found in all states other than WA, in habitat that is moist to wet, such as swamps, steam edges, grasslands and marshes.

This example was self propagated in our bog garden; although we have many scattered throughout our grassed areas, where I endeavour to mow around as many as I can but some are spotted to late to be saved.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Colour above B&W below

Back at home after a few weeks away and with the wet weather this year we now have lots of grass cutting to do, Still I did manage to take some time out to get a couple of photos of a Red-backed Toadlet Pseudophryne coriacea which was one of three rescued from the pool this morning as the rain last night must have encouraged the excursion.

These toadlets range down the coast from southern Queensland to a little south of us and they are found in the damp leaf litter of the forest. The colouring is quite striking but it is the bold underside marking that is the most outstanding.

Monday, 28 November 2011

More Orange than Brown

Browns, mainly common, are flitting about everywhere you look at present sipping nectar from the flowers, resting amongst the leaf litter or looking for a mate. in addition to the wonder Brown of yesterday have also spotted some Eastern Ringed Xenica Geritoneura acantha acantha which although in the Brown family standout as having more orange than brown.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Not just any brown

There are quite a few in the Brown's family where brown and orange are the predominant colouring, but one stands out so much so that the male and female at one time were thought to be separate species. It is the aptly named Wonder Brown Heteronympha mirifica which is found in NSW Queensland and Eastern Victoria. When at rest, blending in amongst the leaf litter, both the male and female look quite similar, with only the lower surface of the hind wing showing hues of brown. However in flight or with the wings spread they could not look more different. The male is like many of the other Browns with upper wing surfaces orange and brown, where as the female is unlike any of the other Browns having almost black upper wing surfaces with a very pale yellow or white splash across the forewing. But try as I might, today I could not get a photo of the female with the wings spread, so she does look much like many other browns.

Had one of life's tragedies today when the newly hatched Lewin Honeyeater chicks were eaten by a young Lace Monitor. We have been watching the adult birds busy at the nest and managed to keep a Green Tree Snake from getting the eggs a week or so ago, but although I had chased off the monitor, once it knew where the nest was there was little chance of them surviving as monitors are very determined hunters of eggs and young and you can't be there all the time. ( I am usually loath to interfere but this nest was just at the front door)

Friday, 25 November 2011


Two days of non-stop rain has not made for getting out and about to get photos, but the pair of Wedge-tailed eagles paid a visit, soaring across the house so I was able to get a couple of photos. I have adjusted the contrast to give a black and white appearance that highlights the spread of feathers against the grey sky.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Moth artistry

The more I look at moths (until recently I really only paid attention to large "in your face" species) the more fascinating I find them. The huge number of species (over 20000 in Australia compared to the relatively small number of butterflies, almost 400) show such amazing diversity in form, colour, patterns and texture. Two very different  moths that I found in the past couple of days are examples.; the first a small moth with such a striking colour scheme Heliosia juncunda ( or perichares, they look very similar)

The second a larger moth (I think Hylaeora caustopis) that has just such amazing texture resulting from the mass of hairs around the head and legs.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Ratty weather

Overcast with drizzle, just perfect weather for a Swamp Rat Rattus lutreolus to get out and about checking suitable areas to dig a burrow and nibble on some grasses along the way. Not sure if it was such a good idea though as it came very close to stumbling across a Red Bellied Black snake that was trying to get some warmth out of the watery light. The snake may yet get its prey as they are particularly adept at following the scent trail.

These native rats are diurnal although most of the time is spent following their intricate network of tunnels and trails through the areas of tussock grasses that are their primary food source.

Catch up

Have been busy and missed getting a couple of posts up in the last few days so thought I would pop them up today.

Last Friday was a good day for birds and a few were quite special like this Eastern Spinebill that was having a sip from the flowers of the Kangaroo Paws Anigozanthos flavidus in our garden.
The Scarlet Honeyeaters are still around although not so numerous now the bottle brushes have almost finished their flowering period.

The other bird with a patch of bright red plumage is the male Mistletoe Bird and one was very active amongst the mistletoe that is on many of the branches of the spotted gum in front of the house.

On Saturday it was a female Orchard Butterfly Papilio aegeus aegeus getting some early morning sun that caught my attention.

This was followed by finding a day flying moth Dysgonia frontinus that was also getting some sun although on the underside.
 This moth's caterpillars feed on one of the native plants Breynia oblongifolia that is quite widespread on the property.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sunning on the deck

Having our morning coffee on the verandah when without any care in the world a smallish Lace Monitor came along past us to find a nice sunny spot to do a bit of sunbathing.
It was quite happy just to enjoy the sun, but became a little bothered by some spiderweb that it had around its mouth and head which gave me a photo op as it was busy getting rid of the offending web.

Sting in the tail

Doing some gardening and noticed movement on the ground which I thought was a spider but it turned out to be a cousin, a scorpion, one of the over 29 species of 6 genera that are found in Australia. This one is one of the smaller species only being around 3cm in length, however even though small they are known to have a very painful sting, but not likely to cause serious injury.

This particular species is the Little Marbled Scorpion  Lychas marmoreus that ranges through the eastern coastal areas. It is reasonably common and generally found in leaf litter, under logs, bark or rocks.

Friday, 18 November 2011

More moths

Last night a few moths were at the window and I managed to get them inside for photos. I have not had time to identify them so will track them down and add the details later.

Orhragaster lunifer Processionary caterpillar moth
Eucyclodes pieroides

Trigonodes hyppasia

Today I disturbed a moth, Cruria donowani that was in the grass and it flew onto my shirt, so I couldn't help but see it and then it flew back into the grass to allow a couple of photos.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Flying tiger on the fence

Showery weather had me working indoors, but did manage to get out during a break and noticed a moth that at time we see in large numbers. We are so used to seeing them that they get overlooked as we search for the more unusual. However today I thought this one was in need of a closer look, particularly as the mesh fence provided a contrast in form and a convenient measure.

It is a day flying moth,  Amata nigriceps of the sub family CTENUCHINAE which has some 53 species, commonly called Tigers or Wasp Moths. Many of the moths are very similar in appearance and I had some difficulty, but I think I have the correct one, but if not will be pleased to be corrected.
You can judge its wing span from the 1cm mesh. Their flight is a slow flutter and with their colouring they are hard to miss and it is also a warning to predators they they are not something that should be eaten, as you are likely to be poisoned.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Diaphanous Wings

Yesterday I got a photo of this damselfly with wings that were almost invisible,  (species?) sunning itself on an nicely coloured rock

Today I noticed a newly emerged cicada  (one of the over 200 species that are to be found in Oz) whose wings were still not fully dry. It was a species I had not seen before and I was struck by the beautiful colouring of both it's body and the diaphanous wings.

It was not a very large cicada only about 5cm long. nose to end of wings and I haven't been able to find an identification as yet. 
Summer is certainly just around the corner when we start hearing cicadas and at present their calling is supplemented by one of their hunters the Cicada Bird which mimics them to attract them to its tree which is much easier than chasing after them. So far I haven't been able to get a decent photo as they are generally high in the treetops.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Trapdoor & stubby wings

Cleaning leaves from the pool and noticed a spider on the bottom which looked to be either a Funnel web or a Trapdoor. When I got it out I could see that it was one of the 66 trapdoor species found in Australia, although I don't know the specific one. They can give a painful bite but are considered harmless. It was half drowned but spiders can survive for quite some time underwater so it was starting to recover when I took the photo.

This afternoon's I notice a moth moving through the grass and showing no inclination to want to fly and on closer inspection noticed it had very stubby wings that looked unlikely to enable it to get off the ground. as yet I haven't identified the species but I noted there are a number of species in which one of the sexes is flightless.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Yellow face close up

A rustle in the fallen leaves in the rocks around the pool gave away the position of this Yellow-faced Whip Snake, whose sunbaking I had disturbed as I was about to start cleaning some leaves from the pool.
 It then spent a few minutes deciding what would be the best crack or hole in which to retreat. as it poised at this crack I was able to get a nice portrait.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Ironic cricket

On the day when the Australian cricket team had the worst result in over 100 years I thought it was a bit ironic to post a photo of a wingless King Cricket, especially as South Africa, whose team gave us a drubbing, is also well known for species of King Crickets. This is one of the 15 species in the family Stenopelmatidae that are found in Australia. They are related to the Wetas of NZ and the King Crickets of SA, others are found in South America. The largest in Oz is the Giant King Cricket which can grow up to 100mm and is found in Queensland and NSW rain forests. This particular species is not that uncommon is our area and often found under logs or in any convenient dark nook around the house where their extremely long antennae (over double their body length) may give them away. I had just put this one outside after it was found in the kitchen. They have very powerful jaws that can give a bit of a nip and as hunters have been known to overpower the deadly Funnel-web spider.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Sugarbags daylily

Our daylilies are flowering profusely and are a magnet for "Sugarbag" or "Sweat bees" Trigona sp, the most well known Australian stingless bee. Stingless bees are highly social with one queen and thousands of workers with a hive that is generally located in a hollow tree. They are found throughout northern  Australia and down the east coast to south of Sydney. The Australian species are generally black in colour and are much smaller than European honey bees. As their name suggests, they do not have a sting but can give you a small bite with their jaws. Although there are hundreds of species of Australian native bees, the stingless bees are the only ones that make and store quantities of honey and it was a major bust tucker food for Aborigines. A dedicated band of apiarists are gradually building popularity in keeping native bee hives and relish the very special honey that is only produced in very small quantities, about 1kg per hive.

Monday, 7 November 2011

On the nest

The pair of Lewin Honeyeaters have finished their nest and are now regularly visiting to spend some time sitting, but they are also absent for a lot of the time, so I don't know whether they have eggs in the nest as yet. We will keep monitoring their progress, whilst taking care not to disturb them, which is a bit difficult as they are right outside our front door . 

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Browns, greys, black&white

Spring weather, sunny, warm and for the Brown's mating was in the air, as two Common Browns facing opposite directions, and going one way for a short distance then deciding this was action best undertaken on the ground.

The Eastern Grey kangaroos have been enjoying the new grass and buttercups in the paddock that was burnt some months ago. As it is sheltered from the prevailing NE winds they spend the heat of the day lazing around in the shade of a large eucalyptus and then in the late afternoon start feeding. It is also nest building time and a Willy Wagtail was busy gathering soft fur from the backs of the kangaroos to line its nest.    

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Black face gets the grub

The loud trilling call "creearc" creearc" repeated tells you the vicinity of a Black-Faced Cuckoo-shrike as they work through the foliage looking for caterpillars and insects. Very busy birds they are not in one place for very long but are easy to keep track off with their regular calling. However a lot of the time is spent in the tree tops so photo opportunities can be awhile coming around. Today I was lucky to have one spend a bit of time searching in some smaller trees and managed a couple of shots.

Looking for dinner
Found it!
  They are certainly black-faced, but not cuckoos or shrikes but a separate family with two groups, "cuckoo-shrikes" and "trillers". The Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike Coracina novaehollandiae is also often referred to as a "Wing shuffler" as a result of the bird's habit of shuffling its wings when it alights.
They range throughout Australia and migrate north as far as Indonesia and Melanesia.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Pink tongue hidden

A change in the weather around midday brought a thunderstorm and put an end to the work that I was going to do outside, so instead I was working undercover on the verandah. Di came to have a look at my progress and chanced to look over the verandah rail and directly below and spotted what she initially thought was a sloughed snake skin but then realised was a live skink. Checking it out, I thought it was a young Blue-tongued Lizard and went to get the camera for a photo or two. I took a couple from the verandah, directly above the lizard, just to be sure I had a record in case it disappeared before I could get a shot from a better position. It was in a spot where I only had one other vantage point and fortunately it stayed for a couple more photos. By now I was thinking that it was possibly another species as it seemed too long and slender to be a Blue Tongue. Checking my lizard reference I was very pleased to find that we had a Pink-tongued Skink or Lizard Cyclodomorphus gerrardii, a first sighting for us and another reptile to add to the list for our property.

Not as common as its Blue-tongue relative, it is more slender with a slightly prehensile tail and grows to about 30cm, which was the size of this one. They are found from The Cape York Peninsular down the east coast to just north of Sydney, in bushland bordering rainforest and wet eucalypt forest. Like the Blue-tongue they are a positive critter to have around your garden, as snails and slugs are part of their diet. It is best not to handle these lizards as they have a very strong bite that can be very painful, as people also often find when they handle Blue-tongues.